< crickets >
For those of you who have watched the tumbleweeds roll by on this blog in the past year, I apologize.
It’s been eleven months since my last blog post and I have no excuse.
Sure, I have been busy – 2013 was one hell of a ride. I founded my own company (Z-sharp), worked hard on getting things started, created presentations and papers to present at conferences, co-organized Belgium’s first public RST course with Michael Bolton, attended and organized peer workshops and delivered webinars.
I knew from past experience that being busy does not necessarily mean that your writing suffers. And yet I had no energy for blogging.
I kept telling myself “Just wait it out, ideas will pop up. There’s no need to do things half-heartedly. Pick your battles”.
Ideas did pop up. Plenty of them, eventually. Strangely enough I felt no urge to act upon them, which in turn reinforced the feeling I was stuck. It started to freak me out. This was the first time I hit a dry writing spell of this length. What was happening?
“That’s it”, I thought. “Vacansopapurosophobia – the fear of a blank page” (the first word that came to mind was “writer’s block”, to be honest. But I like the sound of vacansopapurosophobia better, it has a nice supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ring to it).
Writer’s block – the fear of every aspiring writer! Or rather, blogger’s block. Wait – did I just self-diagnose myself?
“Self-diagnosis is the process of diagnosing, or identifying, medical conditions in oneself. It may be assisted by medical dictionaries, books, resources on the Internet, past personal experiences, or recognizing symptoms or medical signs of a condition that a family member previously had. Self-diagnosis is prone to error and may be potentially dangerous if inappropriate decisions are made on the basis of a misdiagnosis” (source: Wikipedia)
The danger of self-diagnosis is that you’re mainly forming conclusions based on internet folklore. Quite ironically, there *is* a lot of writing about writer’s block on the internet, with causes ranging from too much audience awareness and perfectionism over burnout to flat-out depression.
Weinberg on writing
I decided to seek guidance from a professional. I dug up my copy of “Weinberg on Writing“, in which my personal Yoda Jerry Weinberg describes his writing process. I still vividly recall my amazement several years ago when when I first read it. It fit my own amateurish and seemingly unstructured writing style like a glove.
In the book, Weinberg compares writing to the creation of stone-wall structures. Harnessing ideas and words into a written work is a lot like building a stone wall: gathering, arranging, rearranging, and discarding fieldstones as the wall evolves organically over time. To be successful in your writing, Weinberg suggests, you should have many fieldstones, chunks of work in progress. But be aware that “in progress” is a very vague concept: it may mean you’ve written two words, a hundred words, or even several chapter-like things.
The fieldstones allow you to make progress on any piece of work. The method helps to keep personal energy high, efforts focused and the daunting work of composition forward-moving.
Weinberg on not writing
I dove in the part on writer’s block (you can read an article based on that chapter here), and the following sentence struck a chord – or two:
“Writer’s block is not a disorder in you, the writer. It’s a deficiency in your writing methods – the mythology you’ve swallowed about how works get written.”
Of course! I knew this all along, but I let it get snowed in in my middle-aged excuse for a brain. The creation of a text is not a linear process, like reading is. Reading structures are presentation methods, not creation methods. Creation doesn’t work in such a linear way.
Later on I stumbled upon a rather amusing interview with Jerry Weinberg in which he dispels the myth of writer’s block. This taught me another valuable lesson: as long as you have things you can do, you aren’t blocked at all. When you feel stuck with one part, work on another – they don’t even have to be directly related. There is always something you can do to keep on moving.
All of a sudden, I came to the realization that the solution to my problem was very simple.
“You have nothing to write about? How lovely is that! Isn’t that a GREAT subject?”
So here I am, writing my first blog post in ages, about why I wasn’t writing. I hope I’m here to stay.